Erdoğan to meet with Putin, Merkel and Macron to discuss Syria situation
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced Saturday that he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on March 5 to discuss the situation in northwest Syria, where nearly a million people have been displaced amid aggression from Russian-backed Syrian forces.
The announcement came as the Turkish defense ministry said a Turkish soldier was killed in Syria’s Idlib province in a bomb attack by government forces.
The German and French leaders reportedly expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Idlib in a series of calls Friday.
“I expressed our determination on [Idlib] clearly to Putin yesterday. I also mentioned it to Merkel and Macron,” Erdoğan said to reporters in Izmir, Turkey, according to Reuters.
“On March 5, we will meet with Putin, Macron and Merkel, and we will talk about these again,” he added.
Though the U.S. is not expected to participate in the meeting, a top diplomat who served during the Obama administration called on the U.S. and NATO this week to push for a cease-fire between Turkey and Russia in Syria.
“Idlib is the worst-case scenario we have worried about in Syria since 2011,” said Robert Ford, who served as U.S. ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014, during a briefing Thursday on Capitol Hill.
President Trump in October ordered U.S. troops stationed in northeastern Syria to evacuate the region, clearing the way for a Turkish offensive launched with the purpose of removing Kurdish groups that Ankara views as terrorists.
The move drew criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Several GOP lawmakers made an unannounced visit to Idlib this past week to meet with Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. against ISIS and American aid workers helping civilians caught in the crossfire of Turkey’s offensive into the region.